Don’t faint: After the Deluge

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series After the Deluge
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It’s my day and I’ve been working on my long-moribund fic, After the Deluge. I started it on seasonal_spuffy a mere twelve years ago, and I’m going to finish it here. You might like to refresh your memory of it here.

Quick summary – post NFA, Spike and Buffy have finally met to combat the resurgent First Evil in the Cotswolds – indeed, at the site of the Deeper Well. Rupert Giles has a brother, Oscar, who has not been behaving at all well.

The Deepest Dark

Oscar was whimpering, which made it quite difficult to work out what he was trying to communicate. So much for the Evil Overlord. Slowly, however, the reality of what he was trying to say worked its way through.

Spike gripped him firmly by the throat. Well, more the back of his neck and one shoulder really, but let a formerly-evil vampire have his fantasies, OK? He lifted him with little gentleness and propelled him towards the small group standing over the grey figure and gave him a thorough shake, making some of the kit attached to his belt rattle.

Rupert Giles looked up from his brother’s victim. “Thank you, Spike. Just drop him here, if you would be so kind. Buffy? If you wouldn’t mind sitting next to him? I think we need to stabilise this chap first.”

Oscar seemed thoroughly subdued, but Spike was concerned the moment would slip away. “Look here, Rupes. Know he’s your kid brother and all, but would you mind if the Slayer and I shifted him a bit further away and carried on with our little chat?”

When his brother nodded absently, all his focus still on the injured party, Oscar looked distinctly worried. By the time Buffy and Spike had lifted him bodily and removed him to part of the wall some way from both the entry and the pit he exuded sheer terror.

“Now, you see, we can be all comfy here,” said Buffy. “I’m fond of your brother, and I wouldn’t want to upset him by making him watch you get hurt.”

“Hey!” Spike intervened. “Vampire here. Don’t I get to be the bad cop? It’s been a long while since I tortured anyone.”
Oscar whimpered again.

“No, Spike. You don’t get it. We’re not playing Good Cop, Bad Cop. I don’t think this apology for a Giles family member deserves it. We,” she grinned, “are playing Bad Cop and Much, Much Worse Cop. And Dear Oscar here gets to try to work out which of us is which.”

Spike had always admired his Slayer as well as loving her. Before loving her, even. But now he was in total awe. “Right, pet. Do you want to ask the questions while I apply the pain, or vice versa?”

“Oh, I don’t think it matters much which order we go in, do you? Which do you feel in the mood for?”

“Well, I was quite interested in that bit he said about the necessary creatures being gathered, weren’t you? I could ask him about that. Why don’t you start gently, on his fingers, say?”

Buffy nodded, took up one plump hand and stretched out the smallest finger, gripping the end firmly in one hand and the fist in her other. She smiled cheerfully at Spike. “Ready when you are.”

It may have been her cheery approach to intended torture, or the workmanlike grip with which she held the finger in question, but it was too much for Oscar. He’d always left the heroics to his brother. Tears started flowing rapidly, a drip of snot trailed from a nostril, and he squeaked. “No! Please, no! I’ll tell you everything! Please don’t hurt me!”

Buffy, who had grown to dislike torment and doubted its efficacy, dropped the hand with a well-feigned expression of disappointment. “Go on, then. Speak clearly, please. If you value your pinkie.”

Oscar moved from whimpering to babbling. His desperation to please started the moment Buffy let go of his hand, but from time to time she encouraged him with a delicate stroke of the digit in question.

“It’s too late now, I tell you! Someone has to stay here forever. Two someones now! That man the souled vampire killed, the Guardian here – he has to be replaced! And if he isn’t, the First Evil gets to escape. Again. Something about the balance.” He yelped as Spike touched his other hand. “No! Don’t hurt me! It was all planned, all of it. I had no choice, I promise you. If I hadn’t brought you all here together my family would have been destroyed. Not Rupert, but Robert and the boys. The Council never knew about them, but somehow this thing did. It was going to tell everyone about me, hurt Robert. I couldn’t do anything. I had to help it, don’t you see?”

Spike turned astonished eyes toward Buffy, then, full of contempt, back to Oscar. “You’re telling us you manipulated us all here because you were afraid the First was going to out you? You think your sexuality matters to anyone here? Or at all? Fuck’s sake, man. What century do you think you are living in?”

“You don’t understand. It’s the Giles family! Rupert abandoned us to follow his little tart. Ow!” He squeaked as Spike leant on his hand with a sharp knuckle digging in to the centre of its back.

“I cannot tell you just how very uninterested I am in your pathetic little sex-life. Tell us what we need to know now.” He knuckled Oscar’s hand again, for emphasis.

Oscar’s explanation was almost, but not quite, coherent. By the end of it Buffy had significant food for thought. “So, there’s a balance thingy that got all upset? Story of my life, frankly.” She rolled her eyes out loud, almost.

“And it can only be reset by sacrifice, that it?” Spike leaned a little closer and let a little of his vampire features cut through. The fangs made for a particularly effective grin, he felt. “And to rebalance we have to leave the same ilk as was removed?”

Oscar Giles yelped as Buffy pinched the skin on the hand she still held. He was going to have matching bruises on each hand, she assumed. “Yes! That’s it! Drogyn, the Battlebrand, was taken by the souled vampire, and killed by him! He must be replaced, like for like! And another was torn away, called across the sea, into a human shell. And now this Guardian here. If he dies, yet another must stay.”

“Looks like you’re out of luck on that one,” Spike muttered, glancing over to the magic circle. “He’s definitely stabilising. So, two to stay. I think we can manage that.”

“Oh no you don’t, Mister.” Buffy held his eyes in a full-strength glare. “Self-sacrifice is out for you. No arguments, no buts.”
“Wasn’t thinking us, pet. You and me, we’ve both done the self-sacrifice, die-for-the-world act. Thinking someone else might fit the bill.” His lips tightened into a grim expression. Oscar wriggled.

A dull boom echoed alongside a high-pitched chime, and the group around the injured man relaxed, sitting back on their heels. He pulled himself up to a seated posture, held gently by one of the witches, and started talking in a hurried undertone. Rupert Giles nodded and stood, then walked over to his brother.

“Well, Oscar? Do you want to tell me all about it?” the tone was less than encouraging.

“Seems he has a family, doesn’t want you to know about, they got threatened.” Spike’s summary made it seem very much less complicated than it was. Rupert shook his head and pulled off his spectacles.

Not for cleaning purposes, however. Unshadowed and unaffected by the glass, his eyes seemed much more intense than usual, somehow. “Your boyfriend, you mean? The boys? Christ, Oss, as if I hadn’t known about them for years. Do you seriously think you can keep everything secret? Anything secret, for that matter, when the Council’s concerned? I’ve read the files on you. There are a lot. About the string of young men you’ve tried to keep hidden, then abandoned with the excuse that you were being threatened and you had to leave them for their own safety. Robert’s the latest, and to be fair, he’s lasted better than most. Decent chap, too, from my few meetings with him. Yes,” as his brother’s eyes almost popped, “I’ve met him. Of course I have. When will you get it through your thick head that nobody cares about your love life? What we do care about is how many you lied to, ghosted, dumped without a word. Ever wondered what the real reason was for your lack of promotions? You, my boy. Only you.”

The relentless quiet voice had its intended effect. Even Buffy, who had endured it on many occasions in her teens was shaken by the way Oscar blanched and quivered. From time to time he opened his mouth, as if about to protest, but snapped it shut again.

In an undertone, Buffy explained the information they had so far acquired. Rupert nodded, then nudged his sibling. “Any more you’d like to share, Oss? Like who were you going to ask to pay the price? Bearing in mind that none of this was necessary in the first place?”

“Well it is now.” There was a tiny spark of defiance in Oscar’s voice, but his face dropped as his three interlocutors glared at him. “The rituals were started. If they don’t end in full, all the contents of that pit will be released into this world.”

Spike, alone of the group, had an inkling of what he meant. “The Old Ones, huh?” His jaw twitched. “Seen what one of them on her – his – own can do. The lot of them? Doesn’t bear thinking of. That must be why our old pal wanted us here – to start but not finish the job. So, the get-out clause? What is it?”

Oscar raised his jaw in a doomed attempt to look assertive. Then he adopted a tone part-way between singing and chanting.

“Never-dead, half-dead, undead.
Three and two and one must be.

Undead, twice-dead, half-dead.
One must stay to guard the pit.

Twice-dead and undead, never-dead.
One must be thrown into it.

Never-dead, half-dead, undead.
One must stay the end to see.”

“What the bloody hell is all that supposed to mean?” Spike’s impatience matched his annoyance.

A grown man’s titter is one of the most irritating sound ever. Especially to a vampire in a cavern with the fate of the world (yet again) at stake. Buffy managed to pull Spike’s hands from around Oscar’s throat before too much harm was done, but the smile vanished and Oscar’s voice was noticeably more stable and lower-pitched than before.

“It was important to gather together at least six in this place, not all human. Amongst them must be at least one who died twice, one who was neither living nor dead, one undead creature and one who had never yet died. It took planning to get you all together, frankly, and dopy Rupert never suspected there was any sort of plan involved. Or that I had help.”

Buffy and Spike shared a knowing look. “Guess we both fit into more than one of those categories, right?” murmured Spike. “Buffy, love, that means if one of us has to stay behind, you’re going to have to…”

“NO.” She was sharper and louder than she had intended, and heads jerked up in the group which had been tending to the supine figure on the floor. She apologised. “Sorry guys. But if you’ve got him anywhere near stabilised, I think you ought to come listen to this.”

Alathea waved the others away and the group, Andrew tagging predictably at the end, moved over. While Spike held the furious other Giles by the shoulders to restrain him, Oscar obligingly repeated his rhyme. As he started to explain the help he’d received, Angelus joined in the conversation.

“Oh my boy, ye’re leaving out a whole lot of the story there, aren’t you just?”

Spike jerked his head and rolled his eyes. “The bleeding accent again. Peaches always did get more Oirish every time he got apocalyptic. Bloody tedious it was, if you ask me.”

“Which I really do not think anybody was. My boy, you really need to know your place and butt out of the conversations your betters are holding.” The accent was definitely diluted; you could almost hear Angel’s ordinary American voice there. But not quite.

This time, inevitably, it was Buffy who had to hold Spike back. “You know why it’s doing it,” she hissed, “Just for heaven’s sake don’t give in to its jibes!”

Grim-faced, Spike held his tongue. Not so his companions.

“I assume we are talking neither to Angel nor Angelus?” Rupert Giles’s voice was harsh, unforgiving. “I was under the impression we had seen off your sort in Sunnydale Crater.”

“I won’t deny it was a bit of a blow. But, young feller,” Giles flinched and Andrew looked startled, “you forget what I am. And what I can be. You don’t think a petty sinkhole can contain the source of all evil forever? Not when my obliging chums were so ready to let it all loose again in good old Los Angeles. Or did you think the demons and dragons came free of all taint?”

Spike groaned. The pillock really should have known what he was starting before dragging akk of sodding California into it.

“So, why don’t you just all go home now? Leave me one or two of your pals to play with and we’ll say quits. OK?”

Buffy rose to her feet. “You know very well that’s not going to happen. You see, while you’ve been boasting, not for the first time, I’ve been doing some thinking.”

She paused for effect, expecting the inevitable jibe, but it did not come. She continued. “You need us, you see. You went to ridiculous lengths to bring us here together. Which means you are weak. And we matter. Get out of his face. You insult him by looking like him. And don’t bother telling us what to do. We can work it out without your help, I think.”

With that she took a firm stride forward, right through the seemingly-solid body of her first love. He shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

And vanished.

One Giles brother was holding the other tenderly by the throat now. “Oss, you need to tell me very swiftly indeed why I shouldn’t just throw you down that pit. With or without using that ridiculous pistol on you first.”

There was absolutely no doubt in the minds of any of the onlookers that he meant it. Brotherly love had reached its limit.

The next (penultimate) chapter is here.

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